Return to the home page

Testimonials

10 Steps to Successful Homeschooling What's Free or Cheap in NYC? Ask Laurie / RAQ Travels with Laurie Newsletter
Laurie Block Spigel
Classes & Lectures
Photo Gallery           
Testimonials
Consultations
Poems by Laurie
Contact Laurie
FAQ (testing etc.)
Articles & Reviews       
Books & Resources
Favorite Kids' Books
Language Arts
Math & Economics
Statistics
Critical Thinking
Science           
Social Studies
Foreign Languages
Music           
Art & Architecture
Standards, etc.     
Activities & Crafts
Physical Activities
Magazines
Early Childhood
Special Ed
Gifted & Talented
About College/Teens
NYC High Schools
Projects
Road & Field Trips
Art by Kids
Poems by Kids
Reviews by Kids
Other Sites        
Blogs, etc.
Volunteer / Interns
Contests        
Glossary           
Acknowledgements
Sitemap           
 

These comments and essays were received from students or parents of students who have attended Laurie's classes

Read some poems and see some art by Laurie's students
Learn more about Laurie's Classes and Lectures
From Parents:
Alla and Valery
Deborra-lee & Hugh
Eileen
Jackie
Jennifer
Joanna A.
Joanna L.
Joe H.
Mary
Nita S.
S. Juliao
Sa'id
Sharon
Trish
Zuleyma
From Students:
Amir
Bryce
Caoilin
Daisy
Emma
Hannah
Joshua
Lynette
Kristen
Maya
Oribel
Oscar
Rebecca
Sarah
Sydney H.
Valentina new
College & School Essays:
Kalman
Marcel
Michael
Rebecca

From Educators
A college professor
Jim Hooson
Scenes from Laurie's art history class (ages 8-12, The Middle Ages)
        
Laurie with the All Girls Literature Group in Inwood, 2009-2010
Laurie with the All Girls Literature Group in Inwood, 2009-2010
Laurie's Board Games class in Australia
2012

Brainstorming with Laurie

From Parents

"Laurie Spigel goes over and beyond to help homeschool parents and their children succeed. Homeschooling is clearly her gift and her mission.

During the final weeks of my daughter's homeschooling journey, I ran into a few snags dealing with bureaucratic red tape. I needed assistance, guided restraint and experience within the gray areas that homeschool life guarantees. Laurie was quick to step up and offer support and I was able to quickly bring the situation to a close. She is a true professional and has years of time in alleviating stress overload to the unknowledgeable, homeschooling parent. Grateful for all her help.

THANK YOU Laurie!"

        Trish Holland, NYC Homeschooling parent
back to top

"Dear Laurie,

I want to thank you for all that you have brought to our children over the past few months. For a number of years (until I had Paul and resigned from my tenured senior faculty position at CUNY), I evaluated teachers professionally and also taught them how to teach. I have observed every session of the class and I have never seen anyone bring more intelligence, passion, sensitivity, and joy to a class. I actually think it would be hard for anyone to maintain "full-time" the the energy level you have. As homeschoolers, we are blessed to have you.

I would also like to tell any of the parents reading this who haven't yet read your book, Education Uncensored: Please Do! I finished reading it a few weeks ago but haven't been able to put it away in my library, nor have I been willing to lend it out. For those of you haven't read it yet, it is part memoir, part education book, part homeschooling primer, all wonderful.

Thank you again"

        Mary, Ed.D (homeschooling parent)
back to top

"Laurie almost literally took us by the hand and gently led us to the life we now adore.

In the spring of 2013 I began researching the possibilities I'd have at hand to home school my two teens in NYC. While I was born and raised there, I had not lived in the US for over 25 years. My children barely knew that Manhattan was built on the grid system. Laurie and her website were, without a doubt, the most helpful resources in every way - educational, social and emotional.

We had a few consultations over the spring and summer and I put my children's schedules together as best I could. Laurie's classes were the backbone for both of them.

Laurie also introduced my daughter to a pen pal with whom she corresponded for 3 months before our arrival. After our first week in the city, the kids could barely find Broadway but they had a group of friends and a teacher they loved.

I found myself overwhelmed by the diversity of options available to us and even more so by that of my own children's needs, which came to surface as soon as there was space for them to express their own areas of interest. Laurie helped me to prioritize for each child and this has proven invaluable. Reorienting their days to fit their physical and emotional needs opened both kids up to more real learning and maturing than I could have dreamed possible: My son needs to be on the move and Laurie's encouragement helped me to literally allow him to learn on his feet - physics through games, from batting cages to ping pong, and science classes in Central Park and history in museums plus sports every day has allowed his energy to be well channeled and his learning to seep in organically.

My daughter was nervous, excited and intimidated by the chance to learn how to write a play. She has hopes of becoming a writer herself. I admit to some worry after seeing her first draft. Through infinite improvisation games, writing exercises and just plain old encouragement, Laurie found a way to pull depth, context, detail and emotion out of her and have her wind up exhausted, but with a complete project of which all of us involved could be proud (and maybe only Laurie knew was possible).

In short, our NYC home schooling experience was a dream. Laurie's seemingly unlimited support of her students' well-being is almost daunting for a mother to live up to. It has been an honor and a privilege to see my children burst wide open and enable them to embrace and integrate the wonders of NYC and of Laurie. Next year we'll be back for more of both!"

        Jackie (homeschooling parent))
back to top

"Just a quick email to show my appreciation for your tireless dedication and passion for alternative methods of nurturing and educating the young. You inspire parents to take a creative approach and encourage individualism and independent, critical thinking. So needed in these times!

Bravo!!!! "

        S. Juliao {Parent who made the decision to unschool her 7th grader with Asperger's as a result of his having been allowed to elope from his public school, unescorted and unsupervised by any NYC DOE staff.)
back to top

"My daughter Rebecca returned to Laurie Spigel's literature class for a second year. She also joined Laurie's improv class after not having previous interest in doing improv. We drive over an hour to get to Laurie and willingly do this for Rebecca's eager enthusiasm. This response to time with Laurie and the other students tells me Laurie is a great educator. Thank you Laurie for another great year. "

Nita S.
back to top

"Thank you for all your work, which literally changed our children's lives. The art history, the improv, the playwrighting, the short stories... We all see how much Adina grew over these past two years in both creativity and maturity, and we truly believe your classes played a big role in that. And for Eugene, you have just opened a new word of creativity and communication. His ability to express himself and his self-confidence improved from all but nonexistent to quite impressive. We are so glad we met you and our children lucked out to be able to learn from you – through both your lessons and your unique personality"

Alla and Valery
back to top

"Why was Laurie’s Lit Club So Important? I'll tell you…

"One of the best decisions I’ve ever made as a homeschooling parent was to allow my son to be a part of Laurie Block Spigel’s lit club. Under Laurie’s direction, my son embarked on a rewarding intellectual adventure. The books covered in the club were among the most challenging and engaging literary works you could think of; and the corresponding discussions that followed were always characterized by great depth and nuance. In fact, with each title, I watched as my son’s confidence with new literary works (as well as new narratives) grew exponentially. This was due to in large part to the fact that Laurie’s unbridled enthusiasm for literature cultivates a love for reading, literary discussion, and intellectual exercise. Furthermore, as my son has told me (and as I’ve witnessed up-close), his growth in Laurie’s lit club was also the result of the “tone and atmosphere” that Laurie established for the club. Indeed, Laurie made everyone in the club feel safe to share their ideas and opinions with honesty. Thus, in short, my son and I have found Laurie’s literary club to be absolutely one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences of his educational career."

Amir "Sa'id" Sa'id
back to top
"Laurie is a teacher’s teacher…
Some people are born to do what they do.
Laurie embodies everything you want in a teacher, absolute respect and care for her students and a passion for what she does. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she knows how to engage a child and take them on a learning journey, and have FUN doing it. Our son Oscar has been working with Laurie now for nearly six months ... and she has made a very sizable impact on his education and his well-being. Her classes and one-on-one sessions have been stimulating, fun, and very productive."
Deborra-lee and Hugh
back to top
"Kristen enjoyed both of your classes. It gave her the opportunity to explore all aspects of playwrighting from writing and reading through acting. It was a unique way of learning to express their ideas."
Eileen
back to top
"Laurie's classes are challenging, engaging, and fun for kids. My daughter loves the class discussions and the connections between times, places, people, and world events that Laurie is so talented at illuminating."
Jennifer Dees
back to top
"Laurie's boundless enthusiasm, inspiration and encouragement transformed my very reluctant writer into a passionate, committed and yes, even prolific writer. Her respect for each child's imagination created a safe environment for the students to express themselves freely and without judgement. Another wonderful bonus from her class has been the close friendships that developed among the teens."
Joanna Lodin (Joe-13, Christopher-11, P.J.-6.5)
back to top
"There are so many wonderful reasons I love sending Lynette to Laurie's courses that I have to list them. So here they are:
  1. Lynette always comes home with something wonderful to show for the work she did in Laurie's class (a boardgame, a handmade book of poetry).
  2. Laurie inspires the children to write prolifically, which I myself find a very difficult task.
  3. The result of No. 2 is that the children feel great because they see their creation and know they can do it.
  4. Laurie uses the group setting in very positive ways, for example: as a place for the children to show their work and be proud of themselves, to create a positive (not competitive) atmosphere in which the children work together, help each other and have fun, and she understands the importance of social interaction in the learning experience.
  5. Laurie inspires me to replicate the kind of learning experience she demonstrates in her classes. As a result, I feel our homeschooling experience has been enriched by learning from her example.
Thanks, Laurie!"
Joanna Andreesen
back to top
"When Maggie signed up for your playwriting course, and you informed us that she would write a play and also act in one, we didn't believe you. She did her work privately, so when the performances came, Agnes and I were unprepared to discover what Maggie had achieved. She had no prior experience writing plays. She had always been shy and inaudible speaking onstage. We still don't know how you did it!"
Joe Horowitz
back to top
"Our family first came in contact with Laurie five years ago when we decided to homeschool our two girls. She was referred to us by another homeschooler as 'someone who might be able to help' us with all the paperwork, reporting, fear...etc that most homeschoolers encounter when they start out. Well, what we received from Laurie, was invaluable. She guided us through the process as calmly as only one doing this for 15 years can do, relieved our misgivings, allayed our fears, and basically put us on the right track for everything tangible. Her yearly help with curriculum is indispensable for me even now, after having had some experience. She took the time to not only understand my children's needs and learning styles, but also to understand our needs as a family and how our teaching styles would best serve us and our children.
We have fully taken advantage of the classes she offers and my husband and I are often left feeling that 'we'd like to see a class like that for adults....'

Our oldest daughter began taking Laurie's Poetry/English and Art History classes in the 6th grade after having had very negative experience in public school. Just a few weeks into Laurie's classes, the child who had been labeled 'learning impaired' was coming home exuberant, eager to do more and to write something or make something wonderful for her next class. I am convinced that Laurie's Art History course kindled her artistic fire and got her accepted into La Guardia HS in both the Fine Arts studio as well as the Acting studio. She now understands when she isn't getting what she needs from her instructors (and the fact that sometimes, it IS the instructor) and knows how to get the help she needs.

There is a five-year difference between our two eldest girls and they have both taken Laurie's classes at different times. Every product of their classes was different, even though the subject matter may have been the same. There is never the fear that they've gone over this before...because they grow and incorporate that growth into their class projects. Our younger daughter wrote a short one-act play with Laurie's help and now carries around a pen and notepad to write down ideas, thoughts, etc... If she has a question or comes up with a particularly interesting project, she feels comfortable border="0"picking up the phone and calling Laurie, who has never failed to give her as much time as she needs to answer her questions or give her ideas on where to go next, treating her with as much respect as she would any adult who happened to call.

In short, more than the academic benefits of classes taught by someone who not only knows the subject matter, but takes the time to make it interesting to the age group she is teaching, my children walked away with a love of learning and a sense of adventure regarding their education. We were reluctant homeschoolers at first, cautious and not sure how long it would last. With Laurie's help, we learned to embrace and enjoy the task at hand and now would not consider raising our family any other way. Coming into contact with Laurie has been the single most empowering event that could have happened to us as a new homeschooling family and being empowered to do great things, we believe, is the greatest gift we give as homeschooling parents."
Zuleyma, mother of three daughters
back to top
"I want to thank you for running such a wonderful improv class. Words can't express how a mom feels when she knows that her child is having fun and learning in a safe and supportive environment. I've actually seen positive developmental changes in Joshua this semester and I'd have to credit your workshop with helping him to make this leap.

"I hope you will continue to work with homeschoolers and offer the improv class again. It seems like you really enjoy your work! I think that's why the kids have so much fun.

"Thank you very much for everything."
Sharon Rynn (homeschooling parent)

From Students

"Laurie Spigel gives a fun, challenging, in-depth course on writing for the stage that lets your creativity run wild. She is a wealth of knowledge and a constant source of inspiration, enthusiastic and passionate about art. The course's integration of improv can shed light on doors for a piece that table work may not open, and gives the class a hands-on edge. Because of Laurie, I have a play that I am proud of, and now I can list playwriting as one of my accomplishments. I always eagerly look forward to her class!""
Bryce, on Laurie's class Playwriting for Teens
back to top
"Laurie’s class was truly special. Not only does Laurie teach with passion and candor, but she creates a nurturing and exciting environment to learn in. She always went above and beyond, writing thorough notes and spending countless hours brainstorming with me when I needed a fresh vision. Laurie’s class gave me the tools to become a more articulate and fervid writer, as well as a more confident actress. I’ve always said, “Laurie’s the Queen of homeschooling,” when really, she is the Queen of teaching, inspiring kids to reach their fullest potential. She cultivated a class of directed and creative students that I had the pleasure of working with, and I’m so grateful for her guidance and the amazing experience."
Valentina
back to top
"Laurie’s class was truly special. Not only does Laurie teach with passion and candor, but she creates a nurturing and exciting environment to learn in. She always went above and beyond, writing thorough notes and spending countless hours brainstorming with me when I needed a fresh vision. Laurie’s class gave me the tools to become a more articulate and fervid writer, as well as a more confident actress. I’ve always said, “Laurie’s the Queen of homeschooling,” when really, she is the Queen of teaching, inspiring kids to reach their fullest potential. She cultivated a class of directed and creative students that I had the pleasure of working with, and I’m so grateful for her guidance and the amazing experience." "
Daisy Gumin, (student, Playwriting for Teens)
back to top
"I want to have my own book club, and it will be called, 'the more exciting book club.' It's going to be more like Laurie's class, with writing stories, and acting them out, and telling stories, and playing, and playing jokes and having all kinds of fun. No electronics allowed."
Oscar (age 8)
back to top
Laurie Spigel
Love of laughter
Amusing
Understanding
Respectable
I like her
Entertaining
Smart
Patient
Idea giver
Great
Excited
Loving
Kristen
back to top
"Literary club was great! Over the past month, I was preparing for a big role, which is why I couldn't attend. Although I was happy for this opportunity, I must admit that I was saddened to miss out on the last two sessions of Literary Club.
Literary Club has been, and I know it will continue to be, special to me. I loved all of our discussions, and I learned a lot. It was a great overall experience. I certainly look forward to attending Lit Club when we start up in the fall."
Amir (age 13)
back to top
"To Laurie!
She teaches us poetry, fairytales, research and improv.
She is
wonderful, creative, Happy.
She is Laurie.
You know, the fun one.
Her ideas are the best there is.
She is our favorite.
She is ours, just ours.
The crafty one, the smart one,
The one that teaches us how to make a board game,
how to use props,
how to make a limerick with only five lines,
The only one that knows how to call to fairies & elves,
A gem, the very special one,
Wonderful, nice, sweet, fun,enthusiastic –
Laurie.
Thank you.
Emma Wong
back to top
"Hi Laurie!
I wanted to share with you what I liked best about interview class. On Friday afternoon, after the last class, I was looking at the interview booklet. All of the interviews were very interesting. But the one I liked the most was the one with Yadi. I liked it because I learned about her. I learned about another student in my class. It's just so different.

THANK YOU LAURIE. YOU ARE THE BEST TEACHER EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Hannah Bander
Back to top
"Dear Laurie,

From the first time we met in 2010, you've been a truly influential person in my life. Your enthusiasm, positivity and encouragement continually inspire and motivate me to learn. I feel sincerely fortunate to have you as my teacher. Over the two years I've been homeschooling, your helpfulness, adaptability, support and responsiveness have helped me grow into a more confident and aspiring student. My reading and writing have improved dramatically. You've helped me become interested and enthusiastic about learning and I always enjoy doing English with you. I am truly thankful for all the time you spend skyping, emailing and supporting Maya and me in our homeschooling studies. You are a very special, unique and inspiring educator. Thank you for your continuous guidance and support, and for your love for teaching and learning!

Love,"
Sarah (age 16, Tasmania, June 2012)
Back to top
"Dear Laurie,

"From the very first day I met you I thought you were something special. Your love for learning, and the subject of English in particular, your eagerness to be helpful and your positive energy is very infectious. I don't imagine that we'd be homeschooling if it wasn't for you. Meeting you at your home in 2010 was such an eyeopening, incredible experience for me, one that changed my life forever. It was because of you that I believed that homeschooling was possible, and a good, beneficial thing to do. It was because of you I believed we could make it work for us. During our journey of education at home your moral support and shining example, your enthusiasm, positive feedback, flexibility and willingness to help has enabled us to continue to homeschool and has helped us to have confidence in what we're doing.

"You have helped me so much in becoming more enthusiastic about English. My reading, writing, researching, and attitude towards English has dramatically changed since having you as my teacher. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have met someone like you and to have someone like you as my teacher! I truly appreciate all the time and effort you spend with Sarah and me, skyping, going over work, thinking about the questions we ask and answering them. You are a unique and wonderful educator and I hope that in the future there will be many more doing the kind of work you do!

"Thank you for your enthusiasm and love for learning!"
Maya Jaros (age 16, Tasmania, June 2012)
Back to top
"Laurie’s class is so much fun! I really enjoyed it! My favorite games were sound ball, the story game and what are you doing. I loved your class! I like how we were free to be silly and learn at the same time!"
Joshua Rynn (homeschooler, age 11)
Back to top


"I like the way Laurie introduced a different poem to us every week. She asked us to write a few poems of that type. That helped me write poetry because I learned different styles of poetry.

Making our own poetry book was pretty cool too."
Lynette Andreesen (age 10)
Back to top
back to top
"Thank you SOOOOO MUCH LAURIE!
Laurie, you are the most terrific teacher ever! You are a kind and compassionate person. And you don't just teach, you make everything fun, interesting, and cool! I am really grateful. Have a super fantastical summer. I will definitely miss you. Thanks for helping me and showing me things I can use for life. Improv was fun and exciting, the interview went deep and it showed me how to talk to people, the memoir class helped me remember special moments in my life. Playwriting! Hey, I didn't know I could even write a play! It turned out to be very successful. The show was fun! If it weren't for you, I would have not had the exciting experience of being in your classes! Thank you so much! My family sends bushels of thanks."
Oribel Ledesma & the Ledesma Family
Back to top
"College has been so crazy! I am so glad to finally graduate this month. I am actually moving to New Orleans tomorrow to be an Elementary Special Education teacher. Thank you for being a wonderful teacher and influencing me to make this big step in my life. I hope I can inspire my students the way you inspired me."
Rebecca Sampayo (homeschooled student, college graduate, and special education teacher)
Read Rebecca's college essay
back to top
"I met Laurie last year when watching one of her writing classes. We totally clicked, and from that moment on, we have been not only in a terrific teacher-student relationship, but also good friends. As a student in Laurie's classes, I can say without exaggeration that they are the most enriching, fun, and educational classes ever, and they have been such a great experience.

"I don't know where to begin! She brings out the best in every one of her students. She makes her games like education, and her education like games. Nobody is like her! Laurie makes her students feel very special. I think she revolutionized education, and that all teachers should be like her. I have had so many wonderful moments with her, whether it was writing stories about faeries, or learning improv games in improv class, or going to the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA before the rest of the class arrived for the Art History field trip, or maybe even trying to pronounce the word in Adina Fradkov's awesome play in our playwriting class via floccinaucinihilipilification. Whew.

"Laurie, thank you so much for all the wonderful classes this year. You are definately a one-of-a-kind teacher."
Sydney Harris, 13
back to top

Laurie's Poetry class, grades 1-4


Back to top

Essay: "Laurie," by Caoilin (age 10)

I am in my imagination, in the shade, in the park, on the blue, floral blanket surrounded by trees, grass, leaves, clover plants, and creative friends.

And Laurie is also there, in the lawn chair, laughing in the distance, which pulls me out of my imagination and back down to earth, and I glance at her sitting there contently in her shorts, pretty sandals, and the flowery tee-shirt she got from Hawaii, the place she describes as being "Aloha."

But this glance of the woman, her hair, usually cascading down to her shoulders, but now pulled up in a bun, and her leg crossed over her other, doesn't leave me blank, out of my imagination, for long. Laurie has seemed to put a spell over every girl there, as they are all absorbed in their worlds, like I am. But now, even though we are all imagining in unique universes, our universes are the same, harmonizing and blending like the blue sky and clouds through the treetops. We are all together.

This lets us imagine the strangest, most wonderful things, such as Frankfurt the mouse, who was betrayed by the evil bird, who was really his wife, who was really his mother, or such as the fantastic binomial in which the clock and piano were spewing mucus and regurgitating due to a certain food poisoning.

Laurie can make anything come alive and enchant you, or even jump off the page at you! She has a way of pulling one's real self out of them, plopping them down on the blanket, and saying, "Hello! Welcome; this is life!" But, of course, she doesn't often have to do this, for we are imagining already, all cozy in our universes, and once we are there, we have nothing to conceal.

For instance, when I have an open mind and travel to my imagined world, I sometimes visit the woods with a brook trickling through it. I tingle with sensation when I dip my toes in the cold morning water, but I sit back and watch the sunlight peek through the dancing treetops.

Then, I slip my socks back into my shoes and start venturing deeper into this unexplored world. Pushing vines out of my way and ducking between bushes, I come upon a clearing. Grass and wildflowers are growing plentifully, and the warm sunlight is beaming down on the earth.

But Laurie is talking to us, and I realize she is reading one of her poems, one about us, and a princess "in dazzling white." And warm apple pie, I realize with a smile. She has succeeded in intriguing me once again, and to do it many more times.


Back to top

College Essays

This "College Essay" was submitted by Marcel, who entered Sarah Lawrence College in Fall 2008. He has also written a personal essay.


“To awaken interest and kindle enthusiasm is the sure way to teach easily and successfully.”
—Tryon Edwards
Laurie Spigel’s classes were always uplifting. Interested in her students intellectually, she obviously enjoyed teaching. Lighting up with excitement, she would praise her students’ ideas. Laurie Spigel awakened my interest, kindled my enthusiasm, and became a significant influence in my life.

I met Laurie when I joined a Literature Club for homeschoolers. I found myself becoming comfortable as she offered exciting challenges. Very approachable, her relaxed demeanor created an environment where I read great literature and became the author of successful writings.

Soon I learned how fair-minded she was when teaching her classes. She shared her knowledge of well known authors and guided us as we democratically selected books and voted on what to read. Always respecting her student’s opinions, she honored differing viewpoints. When we read Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, we were turned off by the laborious quality of the novel. Laurie took pleasure in our opinions even though she adored this classic. She also introduced us to novels we all loved, like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. When students had opposing opinions on J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Laurie honored everyone’s view. This was an environment where I could voice my openhearted opinions and hear different viewpoints. Entering a burgeoning growth, I became an intelligent reader.
back to top
Just as inspiring and reassuring were Laurie’s writing classes. With enthusiasm, she opened my eyes to understanding the uniqueness of poetry. This awareness began to show in my own poems, while my teacher assessed my work and encouraged me. I found myself eagerly wanting to put words on paper. During playwriting class, a long and challenging process, Laurie guided me through character and plot development, helping me create a successful play that I submitted to the Young Playwrights Write a Play! 2007 contest. Directing my play and performing it on stage was a gift that this teacher bestowed to me. The success of my play was a “wow” moment for me and gave me the confidence to write another play. Reaching the end of my high school years, Laurie offered a college essay class introducing me to great essay writers, where I found insightful suggestions that elevated my writing.

I fully appreciate the significant influence that Laurie had on me. Forever changed, I have learned the difference between mediocre and superior work. Inspired and more mature, I now understand the importance of the dynamics between the teacher and the student. I comprehend the connection between successful teaching and successful learning. I reached higher grounds intellectually. I am excited about writing and literature. I will carry into my future a sense of fairness and the guiding force which brings out the best in people.
Marcel Hidalgo
back to top
Personal Essay

Last year I did something most teenagers seldom do; I wrote a play. The act of creating an episode in someone’s life fascinated me. Reading many plays in my life had given me the desire to write one. When I heard about the playwriting class, I happily joined.

At the first class I felt unsure about how to approach my writing. My teacher used a strange technique that involved scribbling on paper. Using this scribbled paper we were supposed to use our imagination to find characters. The technique turned me off. I had trouble finding likeable characters. Instead, uninteresting characters popped off the page like a hockey player, a giant, and an airplane. This problem troubled me for awhile.
back to top
One day my parents and I went to see my cousin perform at a karaoke bar. It was there that I found the main character for my play. He was leaning over the bar drinking a beer. Suddenly I saw a sliver of my character’s life before my eyes, a man saddened by a loss. Eager to put my ideas on paper, I rushed home and Jimmy was born.

Creating profiles for my character that included date of birth, dreams and fears, I presented them to my teacher. Even though I did not find my character on the scribble page, my teacher was delighted. She led me to the next step, getting to know my character inside and out.

I began speaking to my character through letters. It was in the letters that I learned about Jimmy’s son, Robert. And so the birth of another character was manifested. Inspiration is bizarre. The real Jimmy, the man at the bar, appeared regretful. Although I did not talk to him, he fueled my creativity. I had a feeling that he had a troubled past and was using the bar to escape. The bar kept him alive. Coming up with the missing parts of what I didn’t know about him was my job. And now my task was finding out why Jimmy felt regretful. As the gods of creativity moved my fingers around the keyboard, I learned about Jimmy. I learned about him being a baseball couch, the alcoholism that caused his wife and son to leave him, and how he lived by himself.
back to top
I began writing, with my teacher helping as needed. I developed a conflict and breaking point for my characters. After many revisions, I had my play. Soon, professional actors would cold read the class plays.

As the actors recited the lines of my play, nervousness flowed through my veins. Feeling the tensions build between my two characters, I was on the edge of my seat. I watched the actors in disbelief as I realized the rewards for my hard work. After the last line, hearing loud clapping behind me, I got up and bowed.

My play was successful. Grabbing the story from somewhere, I composed a moment in someone’s life and told a heartfelt story. Touching the audience, I had stepped into the world of playwriting.
Marcel Hidalgo

back to top

This essay was a finalist for a school-wide contest.)


Working with Laurie Block Spigel

"Ok, Michael, do scrambled sentences while I check your homework. It should form one paragraph," Laurie said. Laurie gave me ideas on what to write about. Next, while I was writing my narrative, she was writing one related to the topic she gave me. After we were both done, we traded narratives and read them aloud, first mine then hers. If something did not sound right, we corrected it. She also let me scramble the homework that was due the next class so she could see how my writing had progressed.

Laurie is a teacher. She is around 50 years old and has two sons, one of whom is a writer. Laurie knows how to write in a clear and precise way. She showed this by writing a book called Education Uncensored in which she tells you how to be a successful student, teacher and also many other things related to education. She is currently writing another book designed for kids to read.

Mrs. Spigel has taught hundreds of classes, but the classes I have been in were creative writing, poetry, and playwriting. Every time I took a class with her, I looked forward to being taught by her. Why? It's because she knows how to teach with a jazz to it; she knows how to make people feel smart-as if they knew what they were doing. She also knows how to structure the classes so the students won't get bored.

The very first set of classes I took with Laurie was playwriting. The first time Mom dropped me off at her house, I didn't know what to expect. I felt like a nervous wreck, but after two classes I knew what I was in for – fun. Since I strongly dislike writing, I couldn't believe that these classes were enjoyable.

I most recently worked with Laurie this past summer. My mom was reading an essay that I wrote about The Hound of the Baskervilles. When she was done reading, she thought the essay wasn't one of my better ones, so she asked me who I wanted to work with to become a better writer. She also mentioned that she would get me private tutoring if I was willing to do this. To keep it simple, she gave me a limited choice – a friend's mom who is a math tutor but a good writer, or Laurie, a professional writer with whom I have taken a lot of classes. I thought Laurie was a better choice and told Mom that. She said that she would try to schedule a time when I could work with Laurie. When Mom told me she arranged things with Laurie, I didn't hear the exact date. I was so excited to get started that I began packing up writing utensils and getting ready to leave. My mom laughed because I wasn't starting until next week.

Part of the class was that I had a workbook that was going to be my writing curriculum – which I wasn't too thrilled about. But after two classes with Laurie, I knew that we were going to write in the workbook a tad each day and then for the rest of the class time we were going to do some unscrambling sentences, paragraphs (which is making sentences into paragraphs and then making the paragraphs into essays), jokes, and writing topics which were not related to the workbook.

I had to end my sessions with Laurie because she went to Australia to teach writing there. She has returned to the United States and continues to teach here. She has taught writing all over the world and is famous for her classes, but mostly for creative writing. I am happy that I was able to work with Laurie and get to know her well.

Michael, Grade 9

back to top

This "Essay on Learning" was submitted by Rebecca as part of the entrance requirements of Sarah Lawrence College. She was accepted.


“The best part of one’s life is the working part, the creative part. Believe me, I love to succeed but the real spiritual and emotional excitement is in the doing.”
--Garson Kanin
People learn for different reasons. Some are motivated by the successful feeling they get from straight A’s or a perfect SAT score. I, however, study a subject not to achieve prestige through good grades, but to gain deeper knowledge and more adept skills. I love to learn simply for the sake of learning. My teacher, Laurie Spigel, gave me the gift of loving to learn. Laurie taught creative writing with contagious enthusiasm. Her classes were never graded, yet I worked harder and more zealously on her assignments than any graded project I was ever given. To learn for the love of learning was a powerful lesson for me.
back to top
In seventh grade, I joined Laurie’s poetry and literature class. During my first class, I anxiously worried if my writing would be good enough, and if the teacher would be angry if I did something wrong. Laurie quickly assuaged the fears I had about writing. She told me that silly poems were just as good as serious ones. Poetry was not about making complete sense but creativity and expression. In class, she didn’t stand and lecture us with a diagram and laser pointer. She sat beside us and worked like our teammate instead of our coach. Best of all, she never forced me to show my writing to the class if I did not want to. I felt safe enough to learn at my own pace. Within a month, I was one of the first students to volunteer to read aloud. Losing my self-doubt was the first step in learning to love writing.

The assignments Laurie gave me ensnared my interest and attention immediately. We wrote conventional forms of poetry such as haiku and acrostic, along with forms I had never thought possible. My portfolio is full of blues poems, recipe poems, poems that don’t rhyme, and poems made entirely of sound words. I wrote and illustrated my own children’s book about the life of an actor in ancient Greek theatre. Laurie gave me in-depth constructive criticism. When I had a writing problem, I would work it out with her step by step. Soon I could edit my own work. I was shocked. No one had ever told me writing was actually fun.
back to top
My writing grew stronger and stronger the more I desired to practice. It rarely seemed like work. With Laurie, it came as naturally as breathing. My writing was never given a letter stamp of its worth. With each draft of a story, I grew more unhindered by fear. I suppose the lesson I learned from Laurie was bigger than making polished grammatically beautiful writing. It was about growing as a writer, as a person. It showed me that the process was far greater than the product. To learn something is precious and everlasting. A product is temporary; the process is immortal.
Rebecca Marie Sampayo
back to top

Some people can point to a single event and say, 'This changed my life,' because they do not believe they were changing before-hand. I, however, try to change for the better every day. For me an event that is truly life-changing is one that lasts. My decision to homeschool has lasted most of my life.

My early experiences in school were not happy ones. I had vision problems which were not noticed or dealt with until years later. In fourth grade I convinced my mother to homeschool me, and I still believe it was the wise choice.

Homeschooling allowed me to do everything. By designing my own curriculum I expanded my classroom, and, as Maurice Sendak put it, 'the walls became the world all around.' I roamed the canyons of the American southwest, accompanying my parents on art-buying trips to Native American reservations. I spent a half year living with my grandmother in Paris, touring the small towns and cathedrals of France.
back to top
In retrospect, I could have spent my high school years focused on either art (at Art and Design) or math (at Bronx Science), sitting all alone with my individuality or in a high school clique. Instead I hired tutors for choice subjects, took college classes, and found extra-curricular activities with people of like mind, and of all ages. I was free to explore many subjects and I discovered a love for theater. The stage and screen became an active part of my curriculum.

Last summer, I was given the opportunity to build and design a professional set for an off-off Broadway theater. While I sweated away downtown, I maintained my previous summer job of Prop Master at a children's theater uptown, allowing me to explore the creative and professional limits of each job and move on.

Able to create my own schedule, I am free to take weekday morning classes in directing at Lehman College CUNY, with Eve Adamson, founder of the Jean Cocteau Repertory Theater. I can write a screen play, build a model castle, study ancient and modern astronomy, and learn how to read electronic blueprints.

Just as important as finding my future direction, homeschooling enabled me to figure out where I am now. As I took classes with college students, developed a strong rapport with teachers at the Museum of Natural History and the School of Visual Arts, I became comfortable with who I am. I could say home schooling was an event that influenced my life, but I'd be short-changing myself. Homeschooling is an event that became my life.
Kalman A. Spigel, 2004, application to NYU

From Educators

Laurie is an inspiring educator. She has a great ability to look and listen to each learner and to develop a wide range of activities around each individual's unique interests and passions. Her creativity and empathy delight and encourage the children and teenagers who work with her.

There seems to be no end to the wide range of individual and group sessions that she can create. Her parent and teacher workshops are immensely helpful to everyone who believes in child led learning.
Jim Hooson, Educational Consultant
Back to top
"Laurie Spigel is a pioneering homeschooling teacher who mentored me through the homeschooling process over the last three years. Laurie guided me with her advice at practically every step of the way, teaching me that the bounds of the educational "system" are essentially elastic, and there is PLENTY of room to explore, experiment and discover, both for the child and the mentors/teachers. From my own experience, I had known this at the master’s and doctoral level, but what I learned from Laurie was that this freedom was also possible at the early, middle and high school levels. For this I remain forever grateful to her. I wish I had known this earlier so we could have begun our son’s homeschooling earlier. Through Laurie I also discovered that we, living in NYC, are extremely fortunate to have DOE's NYC homeschooling office, which, through all its bureaucracy, understands perfectly the independent spirit of child-centered learning. This is the approach that Laurie has dedicated her life to."
College professor and homeschooling dad
Back to top

Laurie's Poetry and Board Game class, June 2006
Laurie's Poetry and Board Game class, ages 9-13.

Back to top
Read more about Laurie's classes.
Comments? Please send an email.